December 23rd, 2008

Own Worst Enemies

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

When I got married, our first house was at the end of a cul-de-sac which was on a hill. It was a brand new estate & all the residents moved in at the same time. We all had drives. In order to get off the drive you had to go up a steepish slope onto the cul-de-sac & then up the hill until it straightened out & then went downhill towards the main road.

During our first winter, someone realised that if it snowed or froze, we might have problems getting to work. We therefore all chipped in & ordered a a load of rock salt. It worked out that each household got a couple of bags each.

Sure enough, one day hence I woke up and couldn’t get off the drive for the snow & ice. Ah-ha I thought, I’ll get the rock salt out.

I got both bags and started spreading the salt over the drive, I then spread some over the neighbour’s drive and did the first 15 or so yards of the cul-de-sac. In other words, I shared it about so everyone would benefit from my two bags.

I went inside for a cup of tea to give the salt time to act & happened to look out the window just as another neighbour was distributing his rock salt. I was pretty gobsmacked to watch him cut off the corner of a bag and then proceed to pour the whole bag from his front offside wheel, up his drive & onto the cul-de-sac. He then did the same with his other bag only covering the track his nearside wheel would make. It was like two trails of gunpowder leading from his front wheels right up to the point where my salt was melting away the main roadway for him.

Which is aprospos of nothing really but I was reminded of it when reading the following story in the Telegraph this week.

Seventeen-year-old Phillip Barnes thought he’d assist some elderly residents in Kendal when they couldn’t leave their homes as the street hadn’t been gritted. He drove around looking for some and went to the local council depot. He says he was told that if he could find some grit in any of the yellow roadside bins he could help himself.

He found such a bin at a railway station, took a bucketful of grit and returned to the road where he gritted the front of some old folks’ homes.

Two days later British Transport Police arrived at his door. He was told they had the incident on CCTV, questioned him for two hours and advised he may be prosecuted or cautioned for theft. A British Transport Police spokesman said, “We have investigated this but it appears the 17-year-old and his friends who took the grit did not realise they were committing an offence. We will not be taking this any further”. Which is really the reason for the title of this post – Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

They could have simply said, we looked in to this matter and found no offence had been committed, but rather they chose to put the guilt on the teenager and made it look like they were doing him a favour by letting him off.

Now I may have been at training school about 30 years ago, but I can still remember the salient points of the Theft Act, specifically the bit that says “A person is guilty of theft, if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it“. I would question that someone believed they were being dishonest when they had made enquiries and believed they had permission to take the grit. Further, the Theft Act says something which is pretty relevant to this scenario –

1. A person’s appropriation of property belonging to another is not to be regarded as dishonest:

(a) if he appropriates the property in the belief that he has in law the right to deprive the other of it, on behalf of himself or of a third person; or

(b) if he appropriates the property in the belief that he would have the other’s consent if the other knew of the appropriation and the circumstances of it;

Sometimes it might pay just to be up-front & stop trying to spin things in our favour.

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